LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 2
in D Major, Op. 36
Beethoven’s evolution as a symphonist was swift; only three
years separated the completion of his still very Classical, Haydnesque First
Symphony and that of the iconoclastic, revolutionary “Eroica,” which charted a
new path not only for Beethoven, but for all Western music. In between, in late
1801 and 1802, the composer wrote his Symphony No. 2, which bridges the wide
stylistic gulf between the works that bracket it on either side.
ALBAN BERG Seven Early Songs
Within the first few years of his apprenticeship with
Schoenberg, Berg was producing extremely accomplished and inventive music,
including the Sieben frühe Lieder (Seven Early Songs). Written
between 1905 and 1908 but not published (or orchestrated) until 1928, the songs
were originally conceived as a diverse, carefully chosen collection of
independent numbers that work well together in performance.
ELLIOTT CARTER Three Illusions
Carter was an intellectual titan whose music ranged from
neoclassical to thoroughly and thornily avant-garde, and everything in between.
Among the 20th and 21st centuries’ most prolific, accomplished, and influential
composers, he was one of America’s greatest musical figures. Each of the Three
Illusions is a response to a seminal piece of the literary
canon—“Micomicón” to Don Quixote, “Fons Juventatis” to Roman mythology,
and “Utopia” to Thomas More’s work of the same name.
ROBERT SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61
Although the Second Symphony was the first major work
Schumann composed after emerging from a mental breakdown that struck in August
1844, it is not glum, despairing music. In fact, three of the symphony’s four
movements are in the sunny key of C major, and though there are moments of
uncertainty and shadow, the music does not broadcast its composer’s psychosis. This
music clearly shows the ongoing evolution of Schumann’s symphonic
style—including recognition for his symphonic forebears, chiefly Haydn,
Beethoven, and Schubert—as well as his love and gratitude for his wife Clara,
to whom he owed much of his recovery.